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What the Irish rugby team can teach us about teamwork on St Patrick’s Day

 (ES Composte)
(ES Composte)

Some say leave it all on the pitch, some say don’t take your work home with you.

But watching the 2023 Six Nations I’m doing both. Management and the team need to work together with a common purpose in both business and rugby to achieve their goal.

And, on St Patrick’s Day today, Ireland look like a top FTSE 100 company while England seem to be struggling in the lower regions of the FTSE 250.

Last Saturday, England suffered one of its worst and most embarrassing defeats at Twickenham, not dissimilar to Liverpool’s 7-0 victory over Manchester United. It looked like, at best, a bad day at the office and, at worst, some players thought they were working from home.

As a patriotic Englishman working in a rugby mad business like QBE Insurance I am hoping that new Head Coach Steve Borthwick is able to unite the England team behind his vision. But it seems like the England management and some very talented England players are not sharing the same game plan.

England’s match tomorrow against Ireland is a test of two outstanding teams at very different points on their respective journeys. Steve Borthwick was tasked with bringing together a team just three weeks ahead of the tournament and embedding his own tactics, people and culture. The Irish coach, ironically an Englishman Andy Farrell, has been in charge of Ireland since 2019.

Having watched England play in this year’s Championship so far, I am reminded that successful teams are built on unity and a common goal. Their game plan appears methodical and obvious, kicking the ball more in attacking areas and relying on their defence and set piece tactics to win matches.

In business, if you create a team over time with a common goal and a unity of purpose, everyone will improve as a group and the business will strengthen and grow. The results will be greater consistency, collaboration and trust, sadly what England’s team seem to be missing.

The Irish team’s success is built upon cohesiveness, clearly spending a lot of time together on and off the pitch. The Irish team understands their gameplan, but they also trust each other to break from it if an opportunity arises.

England, on the other hand look rushed – in all the wrong ways - their ruck speed was slower than Ireland’s and if they play a number of phases and do not break the line their default is to just kick the ball away.

So, in both rugby and business it’s not about individual quality, it’s about teamwork, both cultural and tactical.

There needs to be a mutual trust between management and the rest of the team, with shared goals and a willingness to work together to achieve them. Cohesion is key. Ireland seem to have this in spades but England don’t seem to have turned up at the office yet in the Six Nations.

At QBE, we strive to be the most innovative and consistent risk partner. I understand that for our business partners managing risk is key when you’re not certain of success. Working as a team and having an agreed goal reduces risk while allowing for individual flair at the right time and place.

Ireland is clearly the favourite to win in Dublin tomorrow, but sport like business can be unpredictable and, if on the day, England manage the risks better than Ireland an upset could be in store.

Chris Wallace, UK head of QBE Insurance